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Thursday, 3 December 2015
Page: 9792


Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (11:27): I was a union official for 27 years, and my day-to-day job was negotiation. Some of the negotiations that you entered into were negotiations that you did not think that you had a lot of chance of winning. But you had to work out a strategy, you had to sit down and look at what you can achieve and you had to push a little bit further than what you thought the employer was going to give you. When the employer eye-balled you and said, 'That's all we've got. If you don't accept what we are offering, you can go on strike or you can leave. You can do what you like, but we are not going to give you anymore,' that is when the tough choices had to be made. That is when you had to dig in. That is when working people dug in and said, 'We will call the bluff.' If workers and unions had behaved like the Greens have behaved in this set of negotiations, workers would still be earning very little, their penalty rates would be gone and their annual leave loading would be gone.

From time to time you actually have to show some courage and be tough in negotiations—the exact opposite to what the Greens have done in relation to these negotiations on tax avoidance and tax transparency in this country. They have just given in. They were weak in their strategic approach to the negotiations. They were incapable of understanding that what we should have achieved here was much more transparency and a much better outcome for the public purse and the national interest. The Greens did not show any courage. They did not show any negotiating skills. They did not show any capacity to actually understand the importance of this issue to the public purse. It is tragic that they would keel over so quickly to the Liberal Party and the National Party on this issue.

When you see Senator Heffernan up defending the Greens you know there is a problem. You know something has gone wrong. What has gone wrong is that Senator Di Natale did not have the capacity, did not have the courage and did not have the commitment to actually deal with this issue effectively, and I am not sure whether he had the backing of his party to do so. By simply giving in at the first sign of a bullet flying past you, by simply conceding at the first sign of the coalition eyeballing you and staring you down, demonstrates a major weakness in the Greens and a major weakness in their strategy and a major weakness in their leader's capacity to understand what is important for the Australian public.

You see, this issue now means that the political donors—the multimillionaires that are running companies around this country—who donate to the National Party and the Liberal Party, who fund their election campaigns, will now not pay their fair share of tax. They will continue to hide exactly how much tax they pay, yet ordinary workers in this country and families in this country are being told by those opposite that everything is on the table in terms of tax, including a GST. We know that a GST would leave families thousands of dollars worse off. They are maintaining a GST on the table to take more tax from ordinary working families who are battling to keep their heads above water now, battling to ensure that they can put school shoes on their kids' feet, battling to buy books for their kids to go to school and probably have not had a holiday for some years. They are the ones who are being targeted by this mob over here, while their mates who donate to them, who donate millions of dollars to the Liberal Party election coffers, are being let off scot-free. That is the problem here: if you donate to the Liberal Party and if you are a mate of the Liberal Party, then they will cover for you in terms of how much tax you pay.

The perfect example of that is 7-Eleven. The head of 7-Eleven presided over a company that ripped off migrant workers, that ripped off 457 workers and that ripped off every franchisee it could. Do they have to indicate how much tax they have paid? No, they do not, and why don't they? Because the Greens capitulated. Because the Greens did not have the courage, the capacity or the will to take on the coalition for transparency.

If you go back to the former Greens leader, the Greens were not a party that was determined to be in the mainstream. What is the mainstream for the Greens? Obviously, the mainstream for the Greens is to sit side-by-side with the coalition and their big business backers to hide what is happening in relation to tax in this country. If that is the mainstream, it is not the mainstream where the Labor Party wants to be. We do not want to be there. We want to be in the spot that makes sure that everybody pays their fair share of tax, especially the multimillionaires and especially those companies that are ripping off workers and want to get rid of their penalty rates while not paying an appropriate amount of tax in this country.

What did Christine Milne say back a few years ago? She said, 'Corporate tax avoidance in Australia is endemic.' Will this bill deal with the endemic tax avoidance? Of course it won't. The Greens have sold out their former leader in terms of the vision and the values that Christine Milne had. She said, 'Billions are being lost to Australians via so-called aggressive tax planning'. Will this bill resolve the aggressive tax planning for those that are ripping off the tax system in this country? Of course it won't. So Senator Di Natale and the Greens again have sold out on a value and a principle that former Greens leader Christine Milne aspired to achieve. Former Greens leader Senator Milne said:

Big corporates are exploiting loopholes in our tax laws and the global nature of their business to avoid tax. That means that it is Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey's job to act now.

Does this bill resolve that position? No, it does not, because it still leaves corporations in this country ripping off the taxpayer. She went onto say:

Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey are going to extreme lengths to defend the indefensible and protect the profits of the big end of town.

This was a press release from Senator Milne. I hope she puts a press release out today and says that Senator Di Natale and the Greens are going to extreme lengths to defend the indefensible and protect the profits of the big end of town, because that is exactly what is happening here. Everything that Senator Milne stood for is being trashed by this Greens party room today—absolutely trashed. What does this do about defending the indefensible? A Greens leader standing here defending what they are doing now is indefensible. Senator Milne's press release goes on to say that:

As well as increased transparency and reporting of subsidiaries, strengthening the tax act on profit shifting and properly resourcing the tax office, some further immediate steps we can take have been identified during the inquiry.

So Senator Milne kicked off the inquiry, Senator Dastyari took on that inquiry and took it to levels I do not think many other people would have taken it to in terms of exposing the rorts that were going on and exposing the unfairness of the tax system in this country. Senator Dastyari has done that and, after all that work, what do we have? We have the Greens doing a deal in return for what? In return for nothing. Did they get any deal on tax profit sharing and tax profit shifting, as their former leader wanted? No, they did not. Did they get more resources for the tax office as a result of negotiations on this bill? No, they did not. They sold out completely and utterly. Why did they sell out? Because they want to be so-called 'relevant'. They want to be in the mainstream .

My lesson for the Greens is that you do not become relevant and you do not judge the mainstream as supporting tax avoidance in this country and, if you continue to support tax avoidance in this country, what you will get is more pressure on ordinary families to give up more of their support systems from government. The coalition will continue to try to cut pensions. The coalition will continue to try to cut support from seniors. The coalition will continue to cut health in this country, to cut education funding in this country and will force the states to argue for a GST that will hit everybody and will hit the poorest hardest. That is the strategy that the coalition have set out to achieve.

I never thought for a minute that the Greens would be the ones who would not have any idea about that strategy or would capitulate to that strategy so quickly, capitulate in a way that leaves ordinary people in this country open to further attacks on their standard of living while the big end of town walks away untouched. That is what has happened with the Greens and, if that is the mainstream, the Greens should not be in the mainstream on these issues because the mainstream, according to your mates across on the bench with whom you are voting today, is about protecting the tax avoiders, protecting those who have wealth, power and privilege, making sure that inequality in this country increases because the big end of town, those who are rich, will not be paying the proper tax and ordinary battlers out there who go to work every day, battling hard to make a quid, battling hard to get food on the table for their family, they pay their mortgage or they pay their rent, they are going to have to pay more because this bill allows the tax rorters, the tax scammers and the tax avoiders to get away with it. That is what the coalition have done—backed in the avoiders, the scammers and the rorters. That is what has happened here.

There are people who are on standard of living that ordinary Australians could never dream of because they are not paying their fair share of tax. They are getting richer by the year as the poorer in this country battle every day to put food on the family table. That is what the Greens have done. How obnoxious is it that the Greens could have descended so low in a debate of such importance. They have descended to a position of simply backing in the rorters, the tax avoiders and the people who do not want to make a contribution to health, to education. That is what has happened with the Greens here. What former Senator Christine Milne said was that she wanted:

… the Abbott government to immediately make public the ATO's settlement register so that everyone knows to what extent we are missing out on revenue from the big end of town.

Does this meet the test that the former Leader of the Greens set? No, it absolutely does not. The Greens are an absolute disgrace on this issue. They have sold out the working class in this country. They have capitulated to the Liberals. They are simply supporting tax avoidance and tax rorting. They should be absolutely ashamed of themselves. (Time expired)